Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 85470
Attorney Name Frankel , Stephen Michael
DBP Docket No. 79 DB 2007
Supreme Court Docket No. 1266 DDNo. 3
County York
Disciplinary Counsel J. Frank Dougherty
Counsel for Respondent None
Decision Date 2009-04-21
Effective Date 2007-09-24
Case Digest Respondent was temporarily suspended on September 24, 2007, after referral to the Supreme Court of his Criminal Convictions, which evolved out of three sets of charges, Guilty pleas on two involving possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance, and one bench trial involving misapplication of entrusted property. The Court directed a disciplinary proceeding to determine the appropriate degree of discipline warranted by the convictions. Respondentís convictions on the drug offenses involved his personal uses of cocaine. His conviction on the misapplication charge involved his having taken $40,000 from the IOLTA account at his law firm to apply to the purchase of a Hummer automobile when the firm owed several hundreds of thousands of dollars to clients because of prior misappropriations of client funds, relative to which the Respondent had to a degree been aware. Respondentís father, previously disbarred on unrelated matters, was a co-defendant and convicted on numerous counts involving misappropriations of client funds, for which the Respondent had also been charged but acquitted. The sentencing court had noted the Respondentís failure to report his knowledge of the misappropriation of trust funds to the appropriate authorities; in these disciplinary proceedings the Petitioner sought as an aggravating factor, on the degree of discipline to be imposed, the Respondentís failure to comply with the requirements of Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3(a), Reporting Professional Misconduct. The Respondent presented mitigating evidence, including his youth, inexperience, lack of ability to control financial matters in the firm, and of the dominance of his father, Mark Frankel. The Respondent through an expert and his testimony established that he had been addicted to cocaine; the Disciplinary Board found that such addiction was causally related to the drug offenses but not to the misapplication of entrusted property offense, as the Hearing Committee had found. The majority of the Disciplinary Board adopted the recommendation of the Hearing Committee for a 15 month suspension retroactive to September 24, 2007. Four Board Members recommended a non-retroactive 15 month suspension. Two Board Members recommended a 2 year retroactive suspension.
Rule Violation(s) Rule 203(b)(1), Pa.R.D.E.
Discipline Imposed Suspension for fifteen months, retroactive to temporary suspension.
Points of Law Convictions on matters involving the integrity and trustworthiness of an attorney may result in the imposition of discipline. Any misuse of client funds will generally warrant the imposition of substantial discipline. Drug addiction that is properly established to be causally related to misconduct can serve to mitigate the discipline.
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